Spec. Coll. copy (with call no. PZ2.4) is part of a collection (Collection 1605). To page this item, use the collection record; to find the collection record, search the title: Nitka collection of fantastic fiction. Item is in box 82. Publisher's advertisements: 32 p. at end. Purchase, Zeitlin & Ver Brugge Booksellers, 1967
May 18, 2015
An Eerily Predictive Novel, If Not 100%
Using the venerable device of the Chinese visitor to comment on European affairs, Gregory presents us with Mr. Ming's report of a 1970 visit to Meccania. Now, Luniland is his code name for England, Francoria for France, Romania for Italy (apparently Gregory never considered anyone confusing it with Rumania, which is also known as Romania), and, as we later find, Idiotica for Bolshevik Russia. For those of you not so certain of history a century ago, that leaves Germany to be Meccania: a nation once revolutionized by "Prince Bludiron" (Count Bismarck), that took on the rest of Europe and was defeated.
The tale is nowhere near as boring as, say, Bellamy's *Looking Backward* or other visits to Utopias of the future, where the nice narrator is shown around by a bunch of nice people and nothing but nice people exist. *Meccania* has the advantage of being a visit to a dystopia. Not that Gregory pulls off anything as adventurous and exciting as the plots of *City of Dreadful Night* (again, a predicted Germany) or Ignatious Donnelly's future dystopic apocalypse in *Caesar's Column*. The interest in this book lies in the unfolding revelation of the Super-State, Ming's attempts to get past the "party line" to the real life of the people, and where this leads him.
This was a cautionary tale and, while not entirely accurate, chilling in its predictions to one who knows what happened after 1918 -- the inadvertant or slightly misplaced predictions being perhaps the most eerie. Gregory saw what could be done to create a totalitarian state and what was probably necessary to set one up in defeated Germany.
His description of the career of his Prince Mechow presupposes that the move to totalitarianism will come from the old aristocracy: other than that, it is strangely parallel to the rise of the National Socialists and their development of the all-controlling Nazi state, down to a cult of personality centered on Prince Mechow the way it was on Hitler and would have developed if he had managed to curb his external ambitions and hold his state together. Things might have wound up this controlled, too.
Even as Gregory wrote this, Mussolini was founding Fascism in Italy, finding a way to make capitalists happy with a controlling state by allowing industrial ambition a place in government, and controlling the populace to do away with labor problems like unions and strikes. In all this, the invented state of Meccania is highly predictive. Only in its keeping an aristocratic military in dominance was Gregory off: all the Fascist states (Italy, Spain, Hungary, Germany, &c) moving new strongmen into power and either playing off or destroying the old aristocracies. Only in Italy did the old monarchy survive, the King of Italy enjoying the advantages of Mussolini as his dictatorial minister, just as the Pope backed Fascism because Mussolini was smart enough to create the Vatican City state.
Gregory equates Bolshevism with anarchy, and predicts a weak decentralized government for Russia (Idiotica, remember). He had no idea of the dictatorial totalitarian state that would be created in the name of Communism. But we know what happened there. That gives, in many ways, a truer likeness to his Meccania, down to emphasis on controlling even the arts and inculcating a proper Soviet spirit. Even the trick of declaring dissidents insane and putting them in asylums we recognize from the USSR. The constant monitoring of visitors is also more like the Soviets, a habit of surveillance inherited from the Tsarist secret service, to keep dissidents from meeting foreign backers.
So while *Meccania* doesn't bat a thousand on who did what or how long they lasted (that would be too terrifying for words), it does clearly understand how a totalitarian state has to work and the general flavor of totalitarianism that would come to appeal to the German mind and industrial magnatesóand many countries of Europe, as Gregory fears.
A quiet tale of revelation, with a good deal of ironic humor and a few spots of fear, especially for a modern reader who knows how bad things can get very suddenly in such a psycho culture.